Rubio stakes out foreign policy


As the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses approach, one issue continues to remain in the conversation.

By Brent Griffiths
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In a crowded field of 15 candidates, it takes more than a concerted effort to stand out.

For someone such as business mogul Donald Trump, the contrast is drawn through a cavalier approach that shuns most traditional notions of decorum. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finds his niche is castigating his fellow Republican colleagues in Congress, especially those who lead the party, as weak conservatives who refuse to stand their ground. Jeb Bush has a last name and, more importantly, connections that raised more than $100 million in a handful of months.

But beyond money, age, experience or attitude one topic continues to rise to the top of conversation: foreign policy.

“… Take everyone in the field, are they pro-life? Well, you might check off the box for pretty much everyone, and you might be able to do that with traditional marriage as well,” said Will Rogers, chairman of the Polk County Republicans. “[Foreign policy] could be more of a defining issue for people; it allows candidates in the field to put some daylight between themselves.”

On Oct. 2, Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security hosted its National Security Forum, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio hosted the event.

An election that includes foreign policy is not unheard of. However, if you sit down at a cattle call or come across a candidate, it won’t take long for the issues to start rolling out: ISIS, the Iranian nuclear deal, U.S. support for Israel (or alleged lack thereof), Cuba, China, and Russia — the list continues.

Former Des Moines Register political reporter and columnist David Yepsen said after two caucuses focused primarily on the economy on the Republican side the caucuses are shaping up with a much greater focus on foreign policy.

“At this stage there will be foreign policy episode that will raise the issue, like what happened with the Oregon shooting and guns,” said Yepsen, who is the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers has carved out a niche for the topic.

Rogers serves as honorary chairman for Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security a group that has hosted seven events with Republican hopefuls across the state.

Rubio told the more than 200 attendees at the Oct. 2 event about his more forceful approach with Russia.

“We are barreling toward a second Cold War, and strong American leadership is the only force capable of ensuring that peace and security once again prevail,” Rubio said in the downtown Cedar Rapids library’s Whipple Auditorium.

Rubio, the junior senator from Florida elected in 2010, serves on the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, which he pointed out to moderator longtime CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve and the audience. Rubio continued to refer to characterize Russia president Vladimir Putin as a bad actor who is trying to turn the clock back to a nation that went toe-to-toe with the U.S. during the Cold War.

“As soon as I take office, I will move quickly to increase pressure on Moscow,” Rubio said. “Under my administration, there will be no pleading for meetings with Vladimir Putin. He will be treated for what he is, a gangster and a thug.”

Jim Sorensen, a Marion resident and Vietnam veteran, left the event impressed with the 44-year-old’s approach.

“I think [Rubio] would be a good strong leader, a good strong commander-in-chief, Sorensen said. “Right now, I don’t feel like we have any support whatsoever.”

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